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Finished 超人列传 today. Can't say I enjoyed it too much, I found it read more like a loosely strung together sequence of events rather than a coherent whole. And the ending . . .well, meh. Still, it's short enough (30k chars I think) that it's not a major commitment and there were one or two moments where things I didn't expect to happen happened, so not too bad.

Edit: Instructions on what to read next welcome. Something political / space opera would be good, I'm thinking Foundation / Peter F Hamilton / or even Iain M Banks.

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I'm not aware of much original space opera in Chinese, though the translated stuff is fairly popular. There's lots of exciting "clash of empires"-type fiction being written in a fantasy context, but very little that's SF.

One of the only ones I'm aware of is 格兰格尔5号 (aka "Glangle 5") by 吴弼川 (aka "draco"), which is space opera heavily inspired (very heavily inspired) by Asimov's Pebble in the Sky. It's decently-enough written, and the story (about a man from the past caught between two galactic empires while traders, politicians, and spies all scurry about) is entertaining, but it's not really original. There's a version floating about online (CMFU has a copy), but apparently that's an earlier edition that was changed in a number of places when it was published as 星云V.

There are some sub-genres that seem to be just getting started in China, and space opera is one of them. Techno-thrillers, too: 蝴蝶风暴 by 江南 is a well-written story of a non-aligned international military academy dedicated to preserving global stability that gets involved in the internal political turmoil of a small rogue nation that just happens to be in possession of a device that could ignite a long-simmering cold war. The novel has a couple of really well-crafted set pieces, but it's pretty derivative of Tom Clancy-style airport fiction. Reviewers lacked that context, and tended to compare it to the SF masters instead. One reviewer commented that the well-known trope of a spy's earpiece linked to a sophisticated AI that can feed map info, call up archival information, and calculate probabilities for various scenarios was tied to Asimov's psychohistory concept.

Or it could be simply that the market isn't there for long-form SF like it is for fantasy - Jiang Nan, who's known for his new-era wuxia fiction, wrote "Butterfly Storm" back in 2002 (when he was spending a lonely Christmas vacation as an overseas student in the US); he figured that there'd be little competition once it was published.

Edit: If you do decide to read the Jiang Nan (that book or any of his works), be advised that he's known as 坑王 - he starts stories but never finishes them. "Butterfly Storm" is volume 1 of a multi-part series, so if you're looking for a satisfying conclusion, you're not going to find it here.

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Many thanks for these recommendations, excellent stuff.

I might take a look at 蝴蝶风暴 (online version actually, I'm partial to a bit of techno-thriller. Prior to that though I've got the 科幻世界译文 George R R Martin special to trek though. 格兰格尔5号 also sounds like fun, and I'm not sure if I've ever read Asimov's Pebble in the Sky, so that similarities shouldn't matter too much.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Been reading through 蝴蝶风暴, finding it readable enough but not enjoying it a great deal. I'm just coming out of a longish (well, felt long) section in the middle where the main character seems to hang around having things explained to him and told what's happening elsewhere, so maybe it'll speed up a bit now.

I also picked up 2006年度中国最佳科幻小说集 from Joyo, have dipped in and tried a couple of stories but nothing that really grabbed me.

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Yeah, I thought last year's 'best-of' was spotty - a bit too much historical wuxia fantasy, a few too many excerpts and abridgements, and gimmicky things like wenyan SF, perhaps. I read 乘客与创造者 when it came out in the magazine, and although I felt it moved kind of slowly, I spent the entire time amazed that a story like that could be printed in a Chinese magazine geared toward youth. 中国式青春 was good, and I enjoyed reading 我是谁, even though I could guess where it was going. Beyond that, I don't have much of an impression looking back over the table of contents.

Two other anthologies: SF非卖品, a volume of stories in translation done by the Douban SF forum, and the contents list of the 2007 Best-of collection.

Also, just FYI, the online version of 蝴蝶风暴 you linked to there is missing the last three chapters (the final chapter is no loss - it's background that was added when the magazine version was printed as a book, but it's separate from the narrative). But if you're not enjoying it when you reach that point, it's probably not worth it to track down the full version.

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Yeah, I thought that version was looking a bit light and found a link to a fuller version, although I think maybe the later parts were for 'vip' members of the site or something. Will see how it pans out.

Thanks for the tips on what to read in the 2006 anthology, will save me quite some time.

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Just read 乘客与创造者 (can be found online) this afternoon - really enjoyed it. I see what you mean about it moving slowly, but I found the situation intriguing and it's not that long overall that it ever really began to drag. There were a couple of aspects I didn't like about it too much, but overall definitely one of the better ones I've read.

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Well, today's read was 中国式青春, and I've got to say I loved it. Even got at least a couple of decent laughs out of it. I also found myself thinking about how I'll turn it into a film when I get round to making films - I think it could work quite well.

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I think that one would work well in English, too, except maybe for the Faye Wong songs.

Although as a movie, the songs could just be on the soundtrack in the background (if you can get the rights...)

Edit: The author's done a sequel: 中国式青春II——麦田里的终结者 that's sort of a pastiche of the Terminator story - except the terminator first arrives when the boy-genius is still in school, so she can't kill him yet. It's not as good as the Superman story, though. Jin He Zai was first famous for his 悟空传, which is an absurdist take on the Journey to the West story, heavily inspired by Stephen Chow's Mo Lei Tau humor.

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Getting the rights should be easy enough. Although Faye and I never speak, she comes round regularly to clean and feed the fish.

Read 我是谁 last night, but to be honest it was late and I can't remember much about it. I guess I must have liked it or I would have fallen asleep before the end.

中国式青春 was definitely my favorite of the three you recommended. I think I might skip the sequel - the first one was very satisfying, but I suspect more of the same might be a bit much.

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  • 2 months later...

Got 三体 a few days ago, am about halfway through now. Quite enjoying it - it's a bit slower than 球状闪电, but perhaps to be expected as its only part one of a trilogy. There are notable similarities between the two though - young researcher who almost stumbles through the story while everyone else is doing stuff, older academics with intriguing pasts, secret research bases, etc. Fair enough, but I think a third time would try my patience. Still, it's holding my interest.

I've also been trying to keep up with reading 科幻世界, but to be honest I find the quality of the stories pretty weak, and the stronger ones tend to be the translations.

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Finished 三体 today. Overall I wasn't massively impressed - you expect the first of a trilogy to spend time setting things up, but it all just moved slowly and I feel like I've got more background than story at this point. On the positive side I've now learned to start skimming very quickly whenever this particular author goes too far into the past of any female characters.

There were some nice ideas in the book - Cultural Revolution cadres drafting messages to be sent to alien civilizations, the two parties on either side of first contact both breaking rules, but nothing was really done with them. Not sure at the moment if I'll read part two, 黑暗森林, but I think I probably will.

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I felt it bogged down in the virtual world scenes - the computer-building sequence was clever, but far too long, and other similar episodes could have been pared down quite a bit.

But other than that, I didn't feel that it dragged. I read the magazine version, though, which put the CultRev struggle session and some of the subsequent scenes at the front, so once the main thread of the action - the countdown timer - started up, it wasn't interrupted with all that much back story. But then having an extended non-SF prologue might be off-putting for readers who weren't primed to like the book in the first place.

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  • 3 months later...

The second volume of the Three Body trilogy, 黑暗森林, came out a month or two ago. It takes the concept established at the end of the first book - how to fight an alien civilization when they've frozen physics research and have real-time access to any and all conversation on Earth - and takes it in some pretty unexpected directions. It's clever without being gimmicky, and for once, the main character isn't operating in the shadow of greater men (and there's very little complicated back-story, although the book takes about 50 pages to really get rolling).

One thing I really enjoyed in this story is how global public opinion flip-flops in response to each major situation - the public was pretty much absent in the first volume, and I think that this book is more effective having that larger context. But I have to say that based on what I've read of Liu Cixin's books, he's pretty pessimistic about the ability of the masses to take care of themselves.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

Not strictly speaking science fiction, but I'm figuring it counts as alternate history now - has anyone read Wang Lixiong's Yellow Peril. The plot sounds great fun, but is it actually any good? His non-fiction stuff is highly readable (so why didn't I finish any of it? Hmmm.)

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Not strictly speaking science fiction, but I'm figuring it counts as alternate history now - has anyone read Wang Lixiong's Yellow Peril. The plot sounds great fun, but is it actually any good? His non-fiction stuff is highly readable (so why didn't I finish any of it? Hmmm.)

I have read 黃禍. But it was a long~~~ time ago (like 15+ years ago). I don't really remember the story, but I read it because it got good reviews, and I remember that I enjoyed it. I might still have the books in one of my book boxes (if I have not thrown them away when I moved in March). But I think they are/were banned in China, no?

Wait, is it 黃禍 that you are talking about?

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Wow, I am so glad to see this thread here. ^_^

Last year I translated 《宇宙墓碑》, written by 韩松 for a translation studies class. When writing an accompanying analysis, I found that there is very little scholarship that has been done on Chinese SF. If you are interested in it from this perspective, there is a short and very informative article by Mikael Huss called "Hesitant Journey to the West: SF's Changing Fortunes in Mainland China" which can be downloaded on Jstor (or message me and I will send you a copy).

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